(This is a quick exploration of Galatians 5)
Christ has set us free to be free. So push back against that tendency to try to please everyone, that will only enslave you again. For example, if you keep trying to prove yourself by ‘keeping these rules’, or ‘not doing those things,’ the good news of Christ is useless for you. Because once you’re stuck in the game of proving yourself there are always more things that you need to do to make it really clear that you know what you’re doing, that you’re a good person. Freedom doesn’t come about like that.
I’ll repeat myself, if you think you can prove that you’re worthy by performing certain rituals or whatever, you’ve already failed. Don’t you realize that to follow the way of Christ is to live as if you are already accepted? Learning to accept that you are accepted. Don’t you understand that we’re talking about opposites here? The idea that you need to, or even could, prove your worth is completely opposite of the call to accept that you are accepted.
I’m excited about the day when you’ll get this. I’m really hoping that one day you’ll be able to stop constantly trying to prove yourselves! Rather then wasting all your energy on that, we should be working together to push our way through the darkness that’s so intent on choking us. We should be excitedly pondering and waiting for the always incoming unknown other.
Why am I so excited about this? Because then we’ll finally be able to realize that whether or not you’re able to adequately convince those around you, and yourself, that you’re on the right side doesn’t matter. We see this clearly in example of Jesus. What matters is us caring for each other as we sludge our way through this muck, anticipating the incoming yet unknown potential.
I remember when you used to get this! You were doing great! What happened? Living to prove your rightness has nothing to do with what ultimately matters. Forgive my vulgar example, but you know that a little piece of shit in a pudding ruins the whole pie. Anyway, never mind. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I’m afraid it will be quite embarrasing, though, for the poor sod who’s been messing with your heads when you finally do figure it out. Moving on.
Friends! If I was still preaching that you need to prove yourself, why would the religious leaders still be harassing me? If that was still my message, the cross wouldn’t mean anything! I kinda wish those ‘prove-it’ people would get their arms amputated or something. That would show some dedication! Sorry. Again, moving on.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this letter, you are invited to be free my friends. But remember, don’t use this ‘freedom’ as an excuse for living selfishly. Rather use it to love with excess! All of our attempts at proving our worth are quite fulfilled when we learn to care for our neighbors as we care for ourselves. Of course, when we get all tied up in our selfish ways we end up turning on each other! It’s always a pity to see this. Only pain arises from this.
So how about we learn to explore this gift we call life, together embracing the mystery and wonder found within it. If we can do this, the lure for merely living for self will wain. As you well know the selfish lure to simply live for self and the whisper of love and wonder are always at odds. So let’s keep our eyes wides open, see the world with wonder and not get caught by surprise. If we keep choosing love we’re moving into a new kingdom, if you will. In this kingdom the lure of selfishness has no power.
Here’s a couple obvious symptoms that arise from living in the old kingdom of self. Objectifying other people for sexual pleasure. Constantly falling for habits that you yourself consider destructive. Doing whatever feels good. Making God in your own image. An inability to embrace the mundane. Playing God, hating others, fighting, obsessing over details and getting angry over stupid stuff. Constantly opposing the opinions of others. Conflict, living for self, our-group-is-better-then-your-group thinking, and wanting what others have. Always trying to escape from life through drunkenness, partying, the-next-life-is-what-matters ideology and stuff like that. As I already mentioned, if you’re moving in this directions you are by default moving away from the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of Love. You’re choosing a path that ends in your own demise.
On the flipside, the fruit of the Spirit. Some symptoms of living toward the kingdom of love include: caring for others, an inner anticipation inspite of or for the incoming unknown and an inner sense of wholeness. Patience, kindness, goodness. A stubbornness to keep moving forward despite how bleak things look. Treating others with gentleness and holding your power under control. None of your attempts at living right reject these sorts of things.
In closing, those of use who live by the example of Jesus have moved out of the kingdom of self. So let’s not pretend to embrace the mystery that allows community to thrive, let’s actually live it. While we do this, let’s remain aware so that we don’t become arrogant and turn on each other. Embrace your place, not the place of some other. Cheers.